Movies that should never have been turned into musicals

Musical theater has seen an influx of nostalgia-fueled adaptations in recent years, from “Heathers: The Musical” to the jukebox musical “Jagged Little Pill.” “Heathers” revealed one of the challenges of musical adaptation; it had to stay close to the original film. Weekly entertainment wrote that “the plot often seems to hinge on the audience’s knowledge of the film, rendering the plot basically inexplicable to anyone who hasn’t done their homework.” The world has also changed a lot since the film was released in 1988.

“Pretty Woman” as a musical suffers from the same limitations. The musical follows Edward, an 80s corporate thief, who hires Vivian, a sex worker, for a week. As part of their financial deal, she stays with him at a luxury hotel. He offers her jewelry and shopping sprees. In classic odd couple and rom-com fashion, the two fall in love at the end of the week. When the film was released in 1990, Roger Ebert called him “the sweetest and most open love fable since ‘The Princess Bride’.”

Yet when he took the stage, critics found the limits of their nostalgia. The Guardian criticized the production for not pushing back on Edward’s “wide-eyed cult of wealth” as the series “doesn’t apologize for the idea that everything – even love – emanates from the exchange of ‘cold hard money’. The Hollywood Reporter nnoted that “there is something inevitably uncomfortable about a woman perceived as low-class scum who takes revenge on the pretentious shopkeepers who discriminate against her by showing expensive goods purchased with the rich man’s credit card who pays for his services.”